Brett Cooper is a 12-year veteran of mixed martial arts with nearly 40 fights to his name. He has scrapped with high-level fighters like former Bellator middleweight champions Alexander Shlemenko and Brandon Halsey, and, during his time in the sport, has picked up standout wins over Kendall Grove and Rory Markham.
Ahead of his fight at ACB 67 this Saturday (August 19), Cooper, 23-12, sat down with Tony Reid of Fighters Only to discuss a number of topics ranging from idols and inspirations to a fear of handshakes and the virtues of smaller MMA promotions.
Q: If you could choose one fight from your career every MMA fan should see, which fight would you choose and why?
Brett Cooper: The most recent one that people comment about or remember me for is my comeback win and knockout of Dan Cramer. I lost the first two rounds pretty convincingly and was able to push though. In the third round I came out with the comeback finish.
Q: If you could fight anyone in any weight class who would you choose to fight and why?
BC: Whoever is considered the best in my weight class. Right now I would say Chris Weidman. Most guys at a high level want to fight the best and be the best, so I would say Chris right now.
Q: Well, as long as the shirt didn’t identify you in any way. It wasn’t a walkout shirt was it?
BC: It was something like that. I don’t think it had my name on it but it was close.
Q: Who are the people that inspire you most, personally and professionally?
BC: You can draw inspiration from a number of people or things. Like someone once told me, “I admire qualities of certain people not people themselves.” I followed closely growing up, and as cliché as it sounds, I have to say Bruce Lee. Any kind of real, dedicated competitor inspires me. Anybody that works really hard in the direction that they want to go. Right now I’m inspired by family; to provide for them and to set a good example for my kids in the future. All of my teammates at Team Reign inspire me. Basically, anyone who strives for a goal and doesn’t stop until they get there – or does everything they can to get there. Those are the people that inspire me. I’m sure there are many of those people out there.
Q: If you weren’t a professional mixed martial artist, what would you be doing for a living right now?
BC: I don’t know, man. I have been competing at this since I was eighteen years old. I lived at home for a while, so I didn’t technically need a job, per se. I wanted to be a cop or something that involves or utilizes the skills I have now. I always wanted to utilize my martial arts skills. I have done athletics since I was a kid, so I can’t really imagine doing anything else. I thought about joining the military when I was eighteen, but I don’t enjoy taking orders from people I don’t respect.
Q: Who are your favorite fighters to watch and why? Conversely, who are your least favorite fighters to watch?
BC: I like Frankie Edgar. He always comes in shape and looks like he works really hard. You can’t ever count him out. He has so much heart. He seems like a good family man, too. Watching Michael Chandler and Eddie Alvarez beat the crap out of each other was interesting. I wouldn’t say it’s the healthiest thing for them to do but it was inspiring to watch. I used to look up to Georges St. Pierre. I’m torn with him, though. Johny Hendricks is pretty tough. He has no quit in him. I used to look up to Fedor a lot. I liked him because he wasn’t super talented. But he stuck with it, stuck with it and after a while his hard work and dedication paid off and he passed all the other guys to become the best.
Q: You are a very colorful and interesting guy and it seems many professional athletes have strange superstitions. Do you have any we should know about?
BC: I don’t like to shake hands – not because I’m scared of germs, it’s just that I don’t like the variations on the handshake. Some people like to squeeze like it’s a race to see who is going to squeeze faster. Some people like to squeeze to show how strong they are. For me, I always give a firm grip. I don’t try to squeeze you – I just hold my hand strong. That’s how I was raised and that’s what you are supposed to do. Some guys come up and shake hands and twist my hand. I am super anal about my shoulders and joints, so that really irritates me. Guys laugh at me at the gym but I go for the high-five. Nobody is going to grab my hand and key-lock me or something like that. If I ever see you in person, just be cool about it. Don’t try to come at me while we are shaking hands. Some people do knuckles, but that’s sketchy, too. If you ever broke your hand before, it’s sketchy. I’m cool on the bloody knuckles thing. I’m more of a high-five guy.
Q: You have been very outspoken about the lack of respect Bellator and other MMA promotions get in comparison to the UFC. Can you elaborate on that?
BC: People always think the UFC is the be all and end all… things may change in the future. The way I explain it is like an AFC and NFC thing. In the Super Bowl the AFC was supposed to kill the NFC but the underdogs won. Don’t underestimate us. I always tell people I’ll whoop on some UFC dudes. I ain’t tripping on that. Everyone has two arms and two legs. They are no different than us. I would be happy to whoop on some of those guys.